"Vehicle traffic grew at a fearsome rate worldwide for decades … until 2007. Then came the perfect storm of an economic collapse, a digital revolution and major changes to urban lifestyles. But is this just a blip?"
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"A funny thing happened on the way to Carmageddon: the predicted traffic failed to show up. As engineers continued to forecast traffic growth in line with historic averages – up, up and yet farther up, to an eventual 'carpocalypse' – actual traffic not only fell short of projections, in many places it just plain fell. A growing number of researchers and commentators are now suggesting that we've reached 'peak car', the point at which traffic growth stops, and potentially even falls on a per capita basis.
"... Most highway agencies appear to be adopting what Goodwin labels the 'interrupted growth' hypothesis: because the downturn in traffic parallels that in the global economy, the bad economy is to blame for the motoring decline. Traffic growth will resume once there’s a global economic recovery, they predict. Backing for this view comes from data from the last two years in the US, where total vehicles miles travelled (VMT) increased as the economy recovered and gasoline prices fell. The VMT grew by 0.4% in 2013, and 1.7% in 2014
"Others – often people who are also advocates for public transit, curbing sprawl and so on – attribute traffic falls to changes in society and consumer preferences, such as the increasing rejection of the car by young people. Supporters of this view see the current situation as peak car, and expect these changes to continue into the future.
"The key point of debate is often less the forecasts than the policy response: how much public or private money to put into roads versus other transport?"